I am on a trip to India. We just closed our funding. Now the action in India is going to be thick as we build our team in Mumbai. The quality of people we hire is going to be the single most important determinant of our success. And so the opportunity to go talk to students at the premier business school in the country was almost impossible to turn down.
One of us was invited to go talk to a forum at IIM Ahmedabad that comprises of students interested in startups. Either doing a startup or joining one. Since I was in Mumbai and this was over the weekend, I decided to go as well. I hadn’t been there for over 10 years (I graduated in 1989) and needed just an excuse to visit the alma mater.
I went there with some trepidation. IIM A is not known to produce your entrepreneurial sort. Most students have little or no work experience, and perhaps rightly so, seek to get some. And there are all kinds obscenely high-paying jobs in India and abroad in investment banking, management consulting and other spheres that are just waiting to be landed.
I was pleasantly surprised by the turn-out. There were about 40 students from both PGP I and II (first year and second year). They were engaged and had good questions. In the break I learnt that many of them were choosing not to take up jobs but instead start a new venture immediately. I thought that was just great.
I also caught up with Prof. Arvind Sahay who teaches Marketing at IIM A. Arvind and I were in the same graduating class from IIM A. Since then he had done a Ph.D from UT Austin and had taught for a while at London Business School. Next stop – Ahmedabad. It seems many Indians abroad who are doing well in academia are heading back to quality institutions like IIM A. Arvind reeled off an impressive list of recent hires. This is great news. The 1990s weren’t the most exciting times for IIM A. Now a new generation of faculty is injecting much needed change. There are new courses, new programs (like the PGP Ex on the lines of ISB) and a lot of investment in the right things. The new campus is still not done but it looks quite impressive. Different architectural theme from the old campus, but retains some of the old flavour.
It felt good to go down memory lane a bit too. For those in the know, the magic of Louis Kahn Plaza at night does not diminish with time.
I’m from the 90s batch, and one thing I can say about the WIMWIans (CCCF: well known institute of management in western india, the usual name for IIMA in its case studies) tend to be more entrepreneurial, or at least more daring in their mindset. I guess its a factor of the confidence they have in themselves, as well as their ability to wing-it. Even in the 90s there were plenty oddball courses that we took with much gusto – stuff like Leadership: Vision, Meaning and Realities, as well as Management for Excellence. Granted, that the startup fervour was weak – its probably because there were so few role models (only perhaps Bikhchandani from Naukri.com and the Core Parenterals folks), and so little incentive (given the high salaries you could command). Now, while the salaries have gone up, the role models become more visible – such as yourself.
By the way, do you think there is such a thing as “culture” in transient teams? Whether you look at bschools, or cricket teams, or companies – people refer to the “culture” as if it were an entity separate from the people that form part of these transient teams.
Rustey, I think culture is real – in bschools, cricket teams and companies. After all, they are permanent though your membership may be transient. It is influenced certainly by who its members are, but it is not just the aggregate of its members. Leaders, for instance, have a way of molding the culture of a company (or cricket team).